collection ROWNFAM - Rowntree Family Papers

Zone d'identification




Rowntree Family Papers


  • 1790-1995 (Production)

Niveau de description


Étendue matérielle et support

2.25 cubic metres

99 boxes and 3 shelves of outsize material.

Zone du contexte

Nom du producteur

(fl 1822-)

Notice biographique

The Rowntree family’s association with York began in 1822 when Joseph Rowntree (1801-1859) moved to the city from Scarborough to establish a grocery shop at 28 Pavement. In 1832 he married Sarah Stephenson (1807-1888) and the couple had five children together. Both the Rowntree and Stephenson family were members of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, and the Rowntrees went on to become one of the most prominent Quaker families in York.

It was Joseph and Sarah’s younger son, Henry Isaac (1838-1883), who in 1862 purchased the cocoa business of the Tuke family, founding what would eventually become the Rowntree confectionery company and brand. Joined by his brother Joseph (1836-1925) in 1869, the business was incorporated as Rowntree & Co in 1897 and moved to the Cocoa Works, a purpose built factory on Haxby Road, where it remains to this day.

The company became the second biggest employer in York under the leadership of Joseph Rowntree and his son Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree (1871-1954), and successive generations of the Rowntree family worked there as managers and company directors. The company’s more famous products include the Kit Kat and Aero chocolate bars.

The Rowntree family were heavily involved in the civic, political and social life of York, not merely as a major employer but also as Members of Parliament, city councillors, committee members, newspaper proprietors and philanthropists. Motivated in part by their religious faith, they were politically liberal and interested in questions of economic, educational and social reform. The factory at Haxby Road became well known for its innovative schemes to improve the welfare of the workforce, including paid leave, pensions, on site healthcare, a profit sharing scheme and model housing.

The family also invested in educational and leisure facilities for the city, including the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, Rowntree Park, York city library, and local schools for children and adults. A significant source of funding came from the four Joseph Rowntree Trusts established by Joseph Rowntree in 1904 to continue his social and charitable work.

His son Benjamin Seebohm in turn conducted pioneering research into poverty in York at the turn of the twentieth century, publishing his conclusions in ‘Poverty: a Study of Town Life’ in 1901. He later advised David Lloyd George and William Beveridge on areas of public policy relating to unemployment and living conditions.

The Rowntree company was sold to Swiss company Nestlé in 1988. Today, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust are still based in York and continue the family’s support for social reform.

Histoire archivistique

Source immédiate d'acquisition ou de transfert

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation Historical Archive and the Papers of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, which forms the bulk of this collection, were deposited at the Borthwick Institute by the Library of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2006. A further significant addition was made in 2011 with the deposit of the Rowntree family letters by the Rowntree family. Additional deposits were made in 2012 and 2013.

Zone du contenu et de la structure

Portée et contenu

Victorian correspondence and commonplace books (VC), 19th century; Rowntree family letters, 1840s-1907.

Records of Joseph Rowntree senior (ROWN FAM A/93, ARCH 02/5), including journals, 1812-1813, correspondence, 1831-1832, a privately printed memoir, 1868, handbills, c.1880s, articles, 1924, 1927, and photographs.

Records of Sarah Stephenson, wife of Joseph Rowntree (ROWN FAM K/93), including notebook, n.d. and memoir, 1888.

Records of John Stephenson Rowntree (ROWN FAM B/93, ARCH 02/5), including family memorabilia, letters, and genealogical papers, 1790-1898, journals, 1845-1846, correspondence, 1839-1904, memoranda concerning the death of his wife, c.1875, notes on his life and career, n.d., press cuttings, 1907, and photographs.

Records of Joseph Rowntree junior (JR93, ARCH 02/4, Papers of B. S. Rowntree), including personal and family papers, 1847-1977, general correspondence, 1843-1922, correspondence with his sister Hannah Gillett, 1906-c.1925, financial papers, 1857-1932, handbill and memoranda from Rowntree grocery business, 1834, 1852, papers relating to the Rowntree Company, 1870-1920, papers relating to agreements and properties, 1851-1939, papers relating to temperance, education and other concerns, 1875-1924, minute books of York Friends Literary and Debating Society, 1882-1889, letters, cards and telegrams of condolence on his death, c.1925, probate papers, 1860-1952, papers relating to Joseph Rowntree biography, 1918-1986, and two VHS video tapes concerning his life, 1982, 1993.

Records of Henry Isaac Rowntree and family (ROWN FAM C/93, ARCH 02/1-2), including personal accounts, 1869-1883, probate papers, c.1883, and papers relating to the Osborn Trust and Scholarship, 1880-1917.

Records of Francis Henry Rowntree, son of Henry Isaac Rowntree (ROWN FAM C/93, Acc 2012/43), including scrapbooks, 1903-1913, letter, n.d., and obituary, 1918.

Journal of Sarah Elizabeth Rowntree, eldest daughter of John Stephenson Rowntree (ARCH 02/5), 1877-1879.

Records of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree, son of John Stephenson Rowntree (ROWN FAM L/93, ARCH 02/6, Acc 2013/83, Acc 2013/72), including family papers, 1830s-1860s, correspondence, 1906-1951, typescript copies of letters to his wife Mary Katherine Rowntree, 1906-1918, financial papers, 1909-1937, papers concerning education in York, 1903-1941, typescript ‘ASR: nine years in Parliament,’ 1946, press cuttings and articles, 1905-1951, and photographs, c.1911-1930s.

Records of John Wilhelm Rowntree, son of Joseph Rowntree junior (ROWN FAM D/93), including lectures, 1886-c.1904, journals and sketches relating to his travels in the Middle East, 1895, and in the West Indies, Mexico and North America, 1898, and articles, 1904-1980.

Records of Joseph Stephenson Rowntree, son of Joseph Rowntree junior (ROWN FAM G/93), including pamphlets, 1944, and death certificate and probate documents, c.1951.

Financial papers of Agnes Macdonald, daughter of Joseph Rowntree junior (ROWN FAM E/93), 1905-1953.

Records of Oscar Frederic Rowntree, son of Joseph Rowntree junior (ROWN FAM F/93, Acc 5/2012) including birth, marriage and death certificates, financial papers, 1906-1938, documents relating to Sheffield Creameries, 1922-1924, and plan of Ouse Lea, n.d.

Records of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, son of Joseph Rowntree junior (BSR93, Papers of B. S. Rowntree), including birth, marriage and death certificates, press cuttings and other personal memorabilia, 1871-1954, biographical papers, 1903-1989, genealogical notes on Seebohm family, 20th century, financial papers and accounts, 1845-1954, legal papers, 1905-1954, family and general correspondence, 1879-1954, including correspondence with David Lloyd George, 1919-1934, Ernest Bevin, 1937-1943, William Beveridge, 1941-1944, Waldorf Astor, 1943-1946, Henry S. Dennison, 1922-1953, Leland Rex Robinson, 1926-1954, and Christian Gierloff, 1922-1954, lectures and addresses, 1893-1951, articles, 1916-1938, papers relating to management of labour, 1917-1952, and the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, 1936-1949, papers relating to gambling, c.1903-1954, temperance, 1948-1953, poverty, 1914-1968, unemployment, 1929-1930, trade unions, 1930-1949, leisure, 1930s, education, 1912-1946, theatre, 1930-1954, Homestead and other York projects, 1932-1948, and the Joseph Rowntree Trusts, 1904-1972, papers relating to the First and Second World Wars, 1915-1949, papers relating to industrial disputes, 1915-1951, journals, correspondence, press cuttings and photographs concerning trips to Scandinavia, Germany, Australia, India, America, South America, Japan, and Africa, 1926-1954, books, 1902-1960, vinyl disc of BBC programme on BSR, 1995, compact cassette copy of programme, 1992, and photographs.

Records of Michael Rowntree, son of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree (Acc 2013/83, Acc 2013/10), including letters from his mother Mary Katherine Rowntree, 1940-1941, and papers relating to birdwatching/ringing, 1930s-1990s.

Records of Richard Rowntree, son of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree.

Records of Peter Rowntree, son of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree (ROWN FAM H/93, Papers of B. S. Rowntree), including letters, 1942-1965, article, 1954, photographs and press cuttings, 1931, 1952-1960.

Promotional pamphlet and postcards for John Rowntree & Sons of Scarborough (ROWN FAM I/93), 1929, 1948-1951; records of Frederick Rowntree, son of John Rowntree of Scarborough (ROWN FAM J/93), including photocopies of drawings/plans of houses designed by him, n.d., and biographical notes, 1989.

Miscellaneous biographical and genealogical material (ARCH 02/7), including videos of BBC programmes on Rowntree family, c.1981-1982, video copies of cinefilms made by A. D. Naish with notes, 1928-1942, and genealogical notes and papers on Rowntree and Seebohm families, c.1990s; books owned by family members (ROWN FAM M/93), 1851-1903.


Further accruals are expected.

Mode de classement

The Rowntree Family Papers have been collated from three distinct archive deposits and several recent accessions. They have been arranged in the scope and content above to demonstrate the range of material held for individual family members, together with the covering dates. However the deposits remain separate and their unique archival references are included in parentheses after each name.

Zone des conditions d'accès et d'utilisation

Conditions d’accès

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions de reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Langue des documents

  • anglais

Écriture des documents

Notes sur la langue et l'écriture

Caractéristiques matérielle et contraintes techniques

The collection includes vinyl records, VHS videotapes, and compact audio cassettes. Access to audiovisual material may be restricted due to technical requirements, please contact the Borthwick Institute for more information.

Instruments de recherche

Typescript finding aids, to file level, are available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute. The ‘Joseph Rowntree Historical Trust: Materials on the Rowntree Family, Company and Trusts’ finding aid includes JR93, BSR93 and ROWN FAM A-N. The ‘Joseph Rowntree Historical Trust: Material on Rowntree Family’ finding aid includes ARCH 02. Further material can be found in the ‘Papers of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree’ finding aid. The Rowntree family letters, the Victorian correspondence and more recent accessions have not yet been listed, please contact the Borthwick Institute for more information.

Zone des sources complémentaires

Existence et lieu de conservation des originaux

Existence et lieu de conservation des copies

Unités de description associées

Further records relating to the Rowntree family are deposited at the Borthwick Institute as part of the following archives: Records of Henry Isaac Rowntree & Co, Rowntree Company Archive, Research Papers of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, Rowntree Trusts Archives, Records of the Rowntree Society, Papers of John Bowes Morrell, Educational Interchange Council Archive, Margaret Barnet Archive and the Harvey Archive.

Minute books and photographs of John Rowntree & Sons, tea and coffee merchants and cafe owners of Scarborough, dated 1838-1955, are deposited at North Yorkshire County Record Office.

Note de publication

Asa Briggs, 'Social thought and social action: a study of the work of Seebohm Rowntree, 1871-1954' (London, 1961)

Elizabeth Jackson, 'Joseph Rowntree (1801-1859): Citizen of York,' in York Historian, volume 23 (2006)

Elizabeth Jackson, 'Henry Isaac Rowntree: his Life and Legacy,' in York Historian, volume 28 (2011)

Ian Packer, ed. 'The letters of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree to Mary Katherine Rowntree: 1910-1918' (Cambridge, 2002)

Chris Titley, 'Joseph Rowntree' (Oxford, 2013)

Zone des notes

Identifiant(s) alternatif(s)


Mots-clés - Genre

Zone du contrôle de la description

Identifiant de la description

Identifiant du service d'archives

GB 193

Règles et/ou conventions utilisées

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Niveau de détail

Dates de production, de révision, de suppression

Created 07.10.15. Updated 14.10.15.




Zone des entrées

Genres associés